Cathedrals and Universities: Crash Course History of Science #11

Hi, I’m Hank Green, this is Crash Course,
and today I wanna explore two sites of knowledge production in Europe during the medieval period. This is the story of the cathedral and the
university. [INTRO MUSIC PLAYS] First, let’s agree to call the general time
period in Eurasia and North Africa after the birth of large states but before colonial empires the medieval:
a “middle age” that lasted from roughly CE 500 to 1400. So we’ve got our working definition established! Across a large part of the medieval world,
people traded knowledge, and many folks practiced different forms of humoral medicine and alchemy. The majority of these explorations of nature
were conducted by individual elites—nobles and other rich people who happened to take
an interest in the world around them. In a few places, however, knowledge production
was highly centralized. As we’ve seen in Baghdad, Delhi, Beijing,
and Bologna—lots of medieval people were making knowledge systematically. The north of Europe was a different story. Until roughly 1100, there were relatively
few places of knowledge-making. Monasteries and abbeys had special rooms called
scriptoria where monks copied manuscripts by hand. But the biggest places where knowledge was
made were the Gothic cathedrals. Cathedrals were great stone churches that
took years, sometimes many decades to build. They weren’t simply places to go on Sunday
to worship. A cathedral was the seat of a bishop, or regional
church leader, and the administrative, spiritual, and educational
center of the bishopric or diocese—the district under the bishop’s control. And if you wanted to go to one of these places,
that didn’t make you a christian, just like going to taco bell doesn’t make you a taco. And, unlike castles, cathedrals are still
used today for their original purposes. Choosing a site for a cathedral was high stakes. While secular rulers paid for cathedrals,
bishops often chose where to build them. This redrew the map of Europe and made some
cities vastly more important: once a cathedral was there, a city grew economically. As populations grew, bishoprics split. New cathedrals were needed. While the first cathedrals date back to Constantine
the Great, the high age of cathedral building lasted from roughly 1000 to 1500. This was an era of frantic economic growth
in Europe. The French, for example, built eighty cathedrals
between 1050 and 1350, moving more stone for these projects, in total,
than was moved to build the great pyramids! The construction of these vast, soaring spaces
required immense technical knowledge. What made a cathedral such a technical wonder? Help us out, ThoughtBubble: The height of the cathedral was important:
narrow and tall, cathedrals drew the eyes of worshippers up, inside and out. Inside, a Gothic cathedral generally featured
spacious arched vaults, lots of narrow windows casting light muted by stain glass, and a big round “Rose” window in the front. Stained glass was not only an artistic achievement,
but a highly technical one. Medieval artisans discovered through alchemical
experimentation that adding gold chloride to molten glass resulted in a red tint, and
adding silver nitrate turned the glass yellow. Recently, scientists analyzed stained glass
from this era and discovered that this technique, possibly dating back to the tenth century,
worked because of nanotechnology! Analysis of the stained glass revealed that
gold and silver nanoparticles, acting as quantum dots, reflected red and yellow light, respectively. Historians still have no idea how medieval
artisans made this glass. Outside, towers and spires, guarded by gargoyles,
stood tall above the small buildings of the medieval city. Perhaps the most striking architectural feature
of the cathedral were its flying buttresses— arches leaping off the side of the building,
distributing weight down, allowing the great stone mass to move up and up. The physics of flying buttresses reveals how
innovative they were. High, stone-ceilinged cathedrals generated
heavy outward thrust, a force that had to be directed safely down to the ground. Added to this was the problem of strong winds,
which presented a danger to the tall, skinny bodies of cathedrals. One solution would have been to make the walls
of cathedrals gigantic and thick and ugly. But that’s not what the cathedral builders
did! To move thrust out and down and resist the
wind, buttresses were connected to the main building with arms, making them look as though
they were “flying.” Capped by intricately carved pinnacles, these
arched supports allowed much light to stream in through the stained-glass windows. They also used less stone, reducing the cost
of materials and labor. Thanks Thought Bubble! This strategy worked pretty well for many
cathedrals… Although the one at Beauvais—with an incredibly
tall choir and a slightly misaligned arched vault—partially collapsed in 1284. For the most part we do not know who designed
the cathedrals. But we know that economic opportunities in
cathedral cities attracted many skilled artisans. Each cathedral project was led by a master
builder. Rough masons cut, mortared, and laid the heavy
stones. Freemasons completed the more intricate work,
such as the tracery around the rose windows. These artisans were the engineers of medieval
Europe. And having large numbers of them move from
location to location was very unusual for a time when most people died in the same village
they were born. These flying-buttressed monumental spaces
didn’t only motivate earthly activity. They were representations of Paradise on earth. This Paradise was part of a complex theoretical
system for answering the question “where are we?” The medieval Christian cosmos looked a lot
like the Aristotelian–Ptolemaic one: an earthly sphere bounded within a series of
planetary spheres, and beyond that, an ultimate heavenly sphere. But this heaven was literally Paradise, the
home of God. And below the earth was Hell. (Dante strikingly detailed this Christianized
model of the Aristotelian cosmos in his Divina Commedia.) You might wonder why the medieval Christians
were so obsessed with death and Hell… Well, we don’t want to accuse medieval Europe
of having been some uninteresting “dark age.” But it could be a pretty rough time and place
to be alive. A striking example of this grimness is the
Black Death, a plague that swept across Europe from 1348 to 1350. Perhaps spread by flea-ridden merchants traveling
the Silk Road, the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, killed anywhere from 75 to 200 million people—which
was 30 to 60 percent of Europe’s total population, in two years. aaaaahhhhh… And the plague came back periodically until
the nineteenth century… when cholera pandemics arrived! Before the Black Death, Europe had grown a
lot. And it was during this pre-plague period that
universities took off. Between 1100 and the mid-1300s, population
growth and urbanization led to rise of the university: there were more secular conflicts,
so they needed more lawyers. There were more religious arguments, so they
needed more theologians. And there were more people—and more were
sick!—so they needed more physicians. The proto-university in Europe was Charlemagne’s
palace at Aachen or Aix, in what is now Germany. Charlemagne and his successors centralized
knowledge production at the palace. From around 800 until about 855, Aachen was
an important site for the production of manuscripts including religious and legal texts. The first true European universities included
Salerno, Bologna, Padua, and Naples in Italy; Oxford and Cambridge in England; Paris and
Montpellier in France; and Valencia in Spain. Still looking good, U. Salerno! Eleven hundred is the new thirty. Although they all feature impressive old buildings
today, medieval European universities started off as self-governing associations of people
with a common function. The places where those people taught and learned
could change, but the legal entity of the university stayed the same. In fact, the Latin word universitas even means “Corporation.” Which is… maybe… accurate today? Joining this corporation required swearing a Christian oath. University curricula, or book lists, had to
approved by the Church. This was paradoxically freeing, though, because
it meant that cities and kings had to recognize universities as self-governing: if the Pope said that the faculty of a university
were cool with him, then kings and nobles couldn’t boss them around so easily. They could teach and research what they wanted
to, as long as it was vaguely Catholic enough. Plus, universities became tax exempt! Let’s say we are well-off medieval students
ready to make campus visits. First, our medieval parents lay out our options:
doctor, lawyer, or priest. Those are real jobs. If we can’t hack it at one of those, we
can instead study something called the “liberal arts.” Again, here we ware! Traveling around, we encounter two kinds of
university: in the “Northern” model, such as at Paris, the most important discipline
is theology. The University of Paris was incorporated as
an association of these “masters,” or teachers. In the “Southern” model, at Montpelier
and the Italian universities, medicine and law are the most important subjects. These universities were incorporated as associations
of students, who had to pay the salaries of their teachers. No matter which school we choose, we’ll
need books. Our Scholastic curriculum revolves around
a few core texts, including some names we’ve already encountered: the famous physicians, Aristotle—especially
the Physics—Euclid, Ptolemy, and Archimedes. And did I mention Aristotle? Which books we buy depends on what we’ll
study. The artis liberalis, or liberal arts, are
divvied up into a group of three, the trivium— or tools for thinking, which are grammar,
rhetoric and logic—and a group of four, the quadrivium—or specific subjects, which are arithmetic, geometry, astronomy,
and music. If we decide to study medicine, we’ll read
and reread sayings attributed to Hippocrates, Aristotle, Galen, Ibn-Sina, Al-Razi, Ibn-Rushd and a few Latin writers— maybe Trota and an amazing abbess named Hildegard
of Bingen. She taught about human health as connected
to the “green” health of the living environment. Hildegard was way ahead of her time! Our teachers’ lectures serve as commentary
on the canonical texts. And there is also some emphasis on learning
from experience—by visiting apothecaries, shadowing doctors on their rounds, and attending
anatomical dissections… of criminals. Dissection is everyone’s favorite class! Although our liberal arts or medical curricula
are taught as more or less finished sets of knowledge, this is not to say that no one
can make new knowledge. It just has to enter the classroom as part
of an ongoing discussion with the long-dead “masters.” And enter it does. By 1200, translations of classical Greek works
lost to the Latin- and Romance-speaking northwest of Eurasia came back into the libraries of
universities and monasteries. These were Latin translations of the Arabic
translations we mentioned back in episode seven. What was the result of all this book learnin’? For one, medieval Christians had to work harder
and harder to reconcile scientific works by their favorite Greek and Arabic masters with
a Christian worldview. Increasingly, the faculty—thinking systematically
about thinking as separate from the Bible—ran afoul of the Church. In 1277, the bishop of Paris officially condemned
219 Aristotelian “errors,” meaning that anyone teaching certain ideas
from Greek philosophies would be excommunicated. Historians are split on how this affected
science: on the one hand, the suppression of Aristotle’s ideas sounds bad. But on the other, this condemnation freed
up medieval thinkers in continental Europe to look beyond the so-called “masters.” Thought experiments about how Nature might
really work, regardless of the Bible or Aristotle, flourished. Separating the study of a thing called “Nature”
out from that of a perfect God, even hypothetically, helped set the stage for a secular scientific
program. Nature became God’s delegate, an intermediary
force between God and humanity—something to study… and, ultimately, control. Control of nature meant first putting it in
the right order: head before toes, first causes before final ones, universals
before specifics, and abstractions before particulars. This neat Aristotelian order, married to a
Christian interpretation of the world based on scripture, would soon come up against theories drawn
from meticulous record-keeping regarding natural phenomena… such as astronomical data… such as how heavenly bodies move… But that’s for next time, when we’ll meet
a certain mathematician who attended four great universities— Krackow, Bologna, Padua, and Ferrara—Nicolaus
Copernicus! Crash Course History of Science is filmed
in the Dr. Cheryl C. Kinney studio in Missoula, Montana and it’s made with the help of all
this nice people and our animation team is Thought Cafe. Crash Course is a Complexly production. If you wanna keep imagining the world complexly
with us, you can check out some of our other channels like Scishow Kids, The Art Assignment, and
The Financial Diet. And, if you’d like to keep Crash Course
free for everybody, forever, you can support the series at Patreon; a crowdfunding platform
that allows you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for making
Crash Course possible with their continued support.

Comments 100

  • Sacred geometry…

  • Did someone say CrashCourse Architecture?


  • Hi Hank,
    I know it's not your style, but i think a more james burke-connections approach could help in the future, if you'd wish to deep dive into the history of science. If you haven't seen the old Connections series, well..thank god for youtube :p

  • Can't wait for the next episode 🙂

  • Awesome show, as always, but goddamn you need to work on your pronunciation. For example, you're not supposed to pronounce the R in Montpellier. It's supposed to be more like "Mont-Pellieh". Still love ya Green. (And yes, I know it's "your thing", but it still makes my ears bleed.)

  • You guys forgot about Coimbra, in Portugal! One of the oldest Universities in the world, older than Valencia's!

  • Well it's not so strange Charlemagne had direct contact with the Ummayyad caliphate in Iberia who also gathered knowledge the same way as their abssid cousins in Baghdad. And who inherited that tradition from the Persians and the Aegyptians. Charlemagne wanted to be the same kind to ruler as his counterpart in Byzantium and the old emperor's of Rome and so he started gathering knowledge the same way they had. In many ways the carolingian renaissance is perhaps the most pivotal moment in west European history.

  • You didn't mention the progress from cathedral schools to universities. There is no firm divide between these, cathedral schools gradually became universities. When the word university was minted it was not some big change it was the aknoweledgement of a change that had already happened.

  • Just a quick note. Gargoyles specifically refer to decorated water drains. Statues without a function as those depicted in the animations are called Grotesques.

  • Who else wants Crash Cource to do Math lectures as well…

  • I feel a little bit disappointed with this episode… Might be because of my field of research (I specialize in the diffusion of academic and theologic knowledge through literature during the early thirteenth century) ^^ Anyway, you tried your best and sure did a nice job ! Thanks again for showing the greatness of european middle ages 🙂

  • The cathedral in my city is a 120 meters tall cone with huge vitrals. The building is inspired in sputinik and was designed in the futuristic style, search for Cathedral Maringá if you want to know more!

  • One glaring issue I have is that France is indicated as owning Belgium and the Netherlands in the Middle Ages which is inaccurate, it controlled Flanders for a long while but that’s it. Eventually it lost that province until it was retaken by Napoleon, who incorporated both countries into the Empire, but was lost again by 1814.

    Also the pronunciation….Montpelier *shudder*

    Other than that I still really enjoyed the video! CC is one of my fav series!

  • Everything I know about cathedral building I learned from *Pillars of the Earth*.

  • Why have the thumbnails changed

  • I cringed at that Montpellier pronunciation

  • Where is Mr Green???this guy has tone changed he isn't original I guess??

  • Catholicsm created universities…universities turned away from Catholicsm and became it's Frankenstein.

  • Finally getting to the good part… and next comes Newton. Im so excited

  • Hey guys, could you perhaps do a course on history of world music?

  • That is not the correct way to pronounce "Montpellier".

  • I don't understand why the german ch is constantly messed up by english speakers Achen is spoken A cat hiss EN watch?v=J8GcZX05sEo

  • University leads to Economics which gives you Adam Smith's Trading Company which is just awesome to have.
    Cathedrals are OK but too expensive and pretty useless under Communism.

  • Need some acoustic treatment in the recording room

  • So, where do I have to go to become a taco?

  • Monks: The genius of the Middle ages.

  • I love you so much Crash Course that I hate to complain, but the most recent iteration of the theme music is SO LOUD compared to the rest of the videos. And the bass is crazy loud too (especially the CC Theater vids). The thing is, I like to watch CC in the evening and if I have the volume up enough to hear the program, the theme music is loud enough to wake people in the next room. I know there have gotta be people out there trying to watch CC vids with sleeping babies in the house, too.

    Pretty mega please, could it be brought down in line with the dB of the rest of the vids? I can't be the only one who has an issue with this. Love you, CC!!!

  • I swear if y’all goof the “copernicus narrative” i’ll be right shook.

  • I see that animated Lucy Worsley – thought café, well played

  • You're just going to throw out the word Freemasons and move on? Alright…

  • Stormwind Brewery. I see what u did there.

  • the playlist ended at 10 needs to be updated

  • While I understand that this video is about "Cathedrals and unis in europe", I think that it's a shame that the series didn'discuss the idea from a world-view first, and established a definition of university before claimin'the first ones were in Europe. The library of ALenxadria or University Al-Qarawiyyin are predecessors to that, but many people claim they are not universities, why ? How do you define a university, who coined the term first, what's its equivalent in other languages ? Do you define a university as a body that teaches universal knowledge in a class with professors and that delivers degrees after you finish a pre-set curriculum ? Al Qarawiyyin fits that definition. Do you define it as any body where knowledge can be acquired by people regardless of details ? The lib of ALenxadria fits the definition. Bref, I think that for the aevrage viwers, the transition to lens on europe was too fast. Great video though.

  • What about Nalanda, Taxila and other Indian Universities from the 5th century BCE until the 13th century CE which brought in thousands of students across Asia.

  • Error with "History of Science Playlist". Episodes "History of Science #11" and "History of Science #12" are not included in the History of Science playlist, even though #10 and #13 are included.

  • Are today's freemasons the descendants of cathedral builders?

  • hebrew subs pls 🙂

  • I' m German, it is so cute how you say Aachen 🙂

  • This and the next videos weren't added to the playlist.

  • Funny how liberal arts changed from Cicero's "the arts for free men" (need to know if you aren't a dirty pleb) to medival time's "the free arts" (knowing these makes you poor)

  • love this series

  • Your assertion that all these texts were translated from arabic is incorrect, many were but many more and more popular ones were translated from greek.

  • I knew Hildegard of Bingen was a composer but she was also a scientist?!? I want an episode on this woman!

  • I was wondering why Hank was spending some much time explaining cathedrals and what they look like and where they were built and I found that strange as I see the cathedral in my city every few days and I see cathedrals of neighboring counties and cities whenever I'm on the train or on a trip.
    So I'm guessing he is going into so much detail of explaining them because their are not cathedrals in the US? They are very beautiful if there are not you should visit one if you're ever in Europe.
    As most people in the UK and many European countries are very familiar with cathedrals.

  • Mtp bop a lula

  • Why didn’t you mentioned coimbra in Portugal???

  • That bit about Cathedrals made me want Crash Course Architecture more than ever!

  • Who else was reminded of the Chartres segment of F for Fake by the section in this video about Cathedrals?

  • when are we getting a crash course calculus?

  • you forgot to mention Salamanca, Palencia and Valladolid universities…

  • Achen [ˈaːxn̩] not "Aken".

  • mantpeelleear

  • This episode and the following #12 are missing from the history of science playlist. Please include them in the playlist or comment on why they were not included.

  • How come #11 and #12 aren't on the History of Science Playlist?

  • This video is not part of the playing list for History of Science in the Crash Course Channel

  • Every time you said Montpellier a piece of me died.

  • Interestingly the pinnacles on the butresses are not decoration, but weights to load the Column below and prevent it going into tension at one side. I had to analyse King's College chapel as an exercise in second year structural engineering.

  • "just like going to taco bell doesn't make you a taco"

  • hi Crash Course, could you add this video and #12 to the History of Science Playlist? They are missing and they cause a disturbance in the Force.

  • is this the first episode of crash course architecture

  • "Hildegard – Way ahead of her time"

  • This and number 12 aren’t on the playlist

  • It's amazing to think how much cathedrals influenced the emergence of European scholarship! It makes you wonder how (the equivalent of) universities would have been different if they had developed out of some other tradition.

  • 11 and 12 are missing from the history of science playlist

  • Universities are not just any kind institution of learning, and science is not just any way of creating knowledge. That's why their history doesn't include institutions that did not end up becoming universities and thought traditions that didn't end up becoming scientific.

  • wait, didn't university's teach classic texts like greek texts after the rennaissance? otherwise the whole rennaissance thing wasn't such a big deal if the classical texts were allready being studied right?

  • Haha Latin word university means cooperation? That described precisely today’s situation

  • I wish I was born in the time when knowledge meant the world to everyone. 😭😭😭

  • What about the science done in Africa??????? Ancient Africans researched many things that should be contributed to the history of science

  • Well, there is no way that religion and science have anything in common or a benefitial relation, is it???!!!
    Sometimes seeing how ungrateful today's religiously illiterate people makes me think, when are we gonna learn modesty?

  • Thank you Catholic Church for inventing universities and hospitals and the big bang theory and developing and preserving the western culture along with the Romans and still having tons of universities and hospitals in the world and being by FAR the biggest charity giver. People are always hating on the Catholic Church, but you owe so much to it, even if you're not Catholic, and they still help the world so much. There are terrible scandals, but out of over a billion 1.2 billion Catholics, there's bound to be a lot of people who are not actually good, it's impossible for any institution serving for millenia and being so big to be clean, though I wish it were.

  • I've been watched your videos for past few weeks, hope you make your own podcast about world history

  • Not unlike a modern University… Disregarding certain cultural aspects.

  • Those things are Pagan, Christianity had nothing to do with them, Any "proof" that has them belonging to the church is a lie, It's religious propaganda, Christianity is a desert religion that doesn't belong in Europe, The Vatican isn't Christian

  • Study the liberal arts 'instead'? The seven liberal arts, the trivium and quadrivium, were requirements for an advanced degree, in the theology, law, or medicine.

  • shill channel

  • "… Just like going to taco bell doesn't make you a taco" – you had me Hank 😂

  • just curious about whether alchemists and bishops we're associates in the cathedral building era? (since its mentioned "economic opportunities in cathedral cities attracted many skilled workers" How were this workers paid? also, because both alchemists and bishops had an earth centered universe perspective)

  • 7:35 It's pronounced "Mont pell yay" (Montpelier, France).

  • Abbe Suger used John Erugina’s Aeropagite to construct Norte Dame.

  • OMG, you just made my day


  • Really good! CC baby dftba.

  • Watching this on 4/15/19 the day that Notre Dame burns makes the history of it all seem so much more real.

  • The subtitles are not syncing with the video. Can anyone fix that? Thanks 😀 Great video as always, by the way.

  • Going to Taco Bell doesn't make u a Taco. I am sry, but it does.

  • History repeats itself… Aix is pronounced “Ex.” Sorry; I know the “facade” incident was embarrassing for you.

  • I'm on #12 of CrashCourse & I thinks my head is going to exploded but I say More, More, More, ……………………

  • You map said the Netherlands is France. You just made an enemy for life my friend.

  • Let's not forget Heidelberg University! (from Wikipedia) "Founded in 1386 on instruction of Pope Urban VI, Heidelberg is Germany's oldest university and one of the world's oldest surviving universities."

  • The oldest University in Spain is Salamanca not Valencia – very cool episode, like all of them!

  • You made a small grammatical mistake with "artis liberalis", it's actually "artes liberales". Artis liberalis means "of the liberal art"

  • Yes, learn about St. Hildegard von Bingen! And listen to her music!

  • The captions are off. Please fix it.

  • 5:35 "Killed 75 to 200 million people, which was 30 – 60% of Europe's total population." Is it me or does this not make much sense?

  • We need a crash course on the history of discrimination. Including racism, antisemitism, and homophobia and transphobia.

  • I love this guy

  • Hey not sure who to talk to about this, but the subtitles are de-synced from the video

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